In Istanbul, cats roam the streets as freely as humans. The feline citizens — “kittizens,” if you will — have distinctive personalities and are considered integral members of society. As an adult, Ceyda Torun remembers her furry childhood friends fondly and dedicated her first feature film to them.
Kedi focuses on seven cats in particular. When the film opens, the camera follows Sari, a slender, orange and white tabby with focused yellow eyes, as she hunts for food around Istanbul’s landmark Galata Tower. Instead of devouring the food left for her by her shopkeeper friend, Sari takes it, runs off, and burrows into a building, where an adorable litter of kittens greet her.
A hunter and devoted mother, Sari is respected and loved by the patrons and shop owners in Galata Tower.
Some strays are more functional, like Aslan Parcasi, a grimy black-and-white long-haired fellow with green eyes who hunts and keeps rats away from Bosphorus, a famous restaurant by the shores. Though he also steals fish from the market, the fishermen and restaurant owners seem to love and welcome Aslan and consider him an essential part of their community.
The human citizens of Istanbul are never named, but their love for their four-legged kittizens is inspiring. By cooking 20 pounds of chicken for the strays in her neighborhood every day, one woman stopped suffering from panic attacks. An older gentleman feels indebted to a cat after his boat sank, and another felt caring for cats helped him recover after having a nervous breakdown. The interviewees joke that everyone has running tabs at veterinarians’ offices from caring for their feline compatriots.
Some of the Kedi’s furry subjects have uncannily human qualities. A black-and-white short hair with jealous green eyes — affectionately known as Psikopat — has serious Resting Bitch Face and actually attacks other cats that approach her husband, who she abuses and bosses around mercilessly. Gamsiz, a long hair black-and-white stray with a kind demeanor, leaps up to a human actress’s balcony, stands sideways, knocks on her window like human, and struts into her home to eat her pet’s food. Duman, a fancy grey fella who carries himself like a prince, sought out the fanciest delicatessen in Nisantasi and paws on the window for his daily serving of manchego cheese and smoked turkey.
The love the citizens of Istanbul have for the city’s stray cats is part of their identity. The companionship and care they have for its kittizens brings out the best in its people, and though the rapidly developing city is slowly pushing these fierce felines out of their homes, these smart survivalists will adapt and thrive.
This heartwarming documentary will resonate with all audiences, regardless of whether they identify as a cat person or a dog person. Kedi proves that the loving animals ultimately reveals the humanity in everyone.
Kedi is now screening at Metrograph and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York City and will open on Los Angeles on February 17th with a national rollout to follow. It’s available for pre-order on Oscilloscope’s website.
Written by Rebecca An